Wednesday, January 17, 2007

To the Defense, of Sorts, of the Hapless Dr. Watson Re Hiranuma Cerebral Infarction

Dear Shirley (or Joseph, as I used to know you in our years of innocence),

It is good to see that you are up and about after all these years. But what is this recent obsession with that poor sidekick of yours? Is he even still alive? Why, if I didn't know you for the nerveless sleuth that you are, I would have to say that he has struck a raw nerve with you.

Besides, you misunderstand him completely. He has never claimed that the JMSM never manipulates the news. As I understand it, he was merely arguing that there was another, more than plausible reason for a certain case to be followed by the MSM in a certain way, that the origins of the information and the intent of the first journalist to go after it was now trivial, and that there was a very easy, if time-consuming, way to go through the records to see if there was any initial manipulation. The Yomiuri has, in fact, sifted through all the records, asked questions, as I had insisted, and has used the results in its Jan. 17 morning edition. (One of the articles is available on its website in condensed form. You may wish to claim the omission of Shizuka (no pun intended) Kamei as proof of manipulation. Feel free to argue this matter with Dr. Watson.) As an aside, Ichiro Ozawa's case did not fit the original narrative, but may turn out to be very damaging to the DPJ.

Now as for hiding illnesses, poor Watson, as a practicing medical doctor, would be the first to remind you that this is a common phenomenon in Japan. Public figures are allowed wide leeway in deciding how much of their physical condition to disclose. As I remember, there was next to nothing in the JMSM media about the deteriorating health of Shintaro Abe or Michio Watanabe. More recently, the Japanese public found out that Kaoru Yosano had taken ill only when he decided to finally take leave from the LDP Tax Council chairmanship. Why the secrecy?

Part of the reason is that custom dies hard; remember, until recently, most Japanese had been shielded from their own terminal illnesses. Prime Minister Ikeda, for example, reportedly never was told that he had cancer. And yes, all this would not be possible without some sense of community between the politicians and the media.

Call this manipulation if you will. After all, a wholesale exemption on public disclosure is being afforded to politicians and other public figures. In that respect, it is the same thing as excusing US politicians from disclosure of their sexual activities (unto death, as Nelson Rockefeller discovered, or would have discovered if there is an afterlife) used to be, until Gary Hart blew a hole in the façade, and subsequent changes in US morals in the public sphere rendered the question trivial (unless the sexual activity is of the sort your specific constituency frowns upon).

Is this state of affairs re medical conditions desirable? No. The physical health of a leading political figure is as much a concern of an informed public as the sate of his moral fiber. Will it last forever? Unlikely. There is too much information floating around within easy reach of the non-MSM to ignore. It is instructive that the Hiranuma story had been breached by two tabloids the day before the major dailies reported on it. I assume that the tabloids got their news off some other news source, since it is improbable that two would simultaneously come across the same front-page scoop. (Similar, yet utterly unlike, the way that TIME and Newsweek used to mysteriously come up with simultaneous, say, Michael Jackson, cover feature stories that had no immediate reason to be there, except that the other magazine was carrying it as well.)

But to put the Hiranuma story up as proof that the JMSM often reflects specific policy agendas, personal feelings and the like (which I am sure happens) and moreover that some sinister force have effected to release information concerning office expenses of certain politicians following a preordained scenario is not worthy of your lofty intellect, inferior as it is to that of your dear brothers, natal and adopted. Surely (again no pun intended), you can, you do, do better than that.

I had intended to allow that fellow to make the case himself. But you and I know, don't we, that he could not write a simple story unless it were dictated to him? Thus, I have taken pity on poor old Watson, and undertake a little family chat with my little brother, as it were. Have I made myself clear?

A final word of caution: take care; after all, you are no longer young, and this is the 21 Century. The time has come, finally, to lay down that pipe of yours. If not for your health, then at least take heed; opium is illegal where you live, so you could be arrested, imprisoned, then summarily deported. And criminal elements there have every reason to inform on you to get you out of the way. Make no mistake; I shall look you up one of these days to see that you have taken this friendly advice from your brother and steadfast friend. And if you do return to London, I have a just the job for you in the family firm. In the meantime, I am

Yours sincerely,


MTC said...

With the death Hashimoto Ryutaro, Hiranuma Takeo is the senior representative from his prefecture. He had just completed an obsessively covered negotiation process prior to being stricken. The New Years holidays, when folks would tend to pay visits to his Okayama offices or the jikka, came and went without a peep about his condition.

A member of parliament, so recently on the television every bloody morning and night, goes missing for 40 days. Please accept the argument that the press assigned to cover Hiranuma colluded with the family and Hiranuma's Okayama office staff to keep the story out of the public domain.

The dog did not bark--that was what was so intriguing.

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Jun Okumura said...

Offed two spammers.